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If Liger is Bollywood’s foray into pan-Indian films, then it shows Bollywood hasn’t learned how to make those films.

In the past, Hindi films were naturally considered pan-India merely because Hindi was spoken by more people than other languages. Others were called regional cinema. But each film region had its own flavour and few movies were truly pan-India barring the occasional crossover film or multilinguals.

Today, pan-India films are made consciously with lavish production as an ingredient that would dominate and ride over local sensitivities. Sometimes, some films that claim to be pan-Indian fail to deliver since they are caught in the formula that works in that region. Liger, starring Vijay Deverakonda and Ananya Pandey, is one such pretender to the pan-India genre.

Pan-India films are, however, not recent. The few successful ones followed the Ilaiyaraja song in Julie Ganapathy that talks about how one likes to share with others what one liked. S S Vasan’s Chandralekha was a true pan-Indian film animated by a desire to showcase the best in Tamil cinema to all of India.

What is truly pan-India is what filmmakers describe as sentiment. There’s a human story that everyone can relate to in a successful film

Many production houses of Tamil film industry seamlessly produced Hindi films too. AVM, Vahini, Gemini and Devar Films were a few of these. In the 1980s, Ramoji Rao’s Suresh Productions, Annapurna Studios, Geetha Arts and others made movies in Telugu as well as Hindi.

Mani Ratnam and Shankar were some noteworthy pan-India directors. Puli Murugan starring Mohanlal got traction among Tamil and Telugu audiences. Rajamouli’s Naan E was dubbed from Telugu to Tamil and later to Hindi. But these were instances of successes in one region crossing state and linguistic borders.

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In reality, pan-Indian KGF is a Tamil story in Karnataka

Sensing the potential of the pan-Indian market following Naan E, Rajamouli made a conscious pan-India movie, Bahubali, with a starcast drawn from a wider pool of actors on purpose. RRR, another such pan-Indian movie, was carefully planned, produced and marketed. While some are peeved that these movies come at the cost of rootedness and local flavour, other criticisms are that the pan-India tag is merely a marketing gimmick.

Karan Johar apparently liked Arjun Reddy so much that he wanted to remake it in Hindi with Vijay Devarakonda. But that didn’t go anywhere. Not giving up on Vijay Devarakonda, Karan Johar has made Liger with Puri Jagannath.

The movie has been in the making for three years. It has drawn a range of film industry worthies. But the movie is a dismal product since the story and main theme is among the most formulaic and tired cliché of Indian cinema.

In Tamil, Liger and Balamani go to Mumbai from Royapuram. Why Royapuram? Well, the Madras Bashai of Royapuram would give Liger the rootedness, the makers must have thought.

Liger dreams of being  a champion in MMA, a self-defence martial art. He goes to work as a janitor in a MMA training institute to learn it. Though his mother and trainer warn him against love, it is love at sight for Liger when he meets Tanya, played by Ananya.

Tanya’s brother gets to know about the romance. And that brother aspires to be Liger’s nemesis in MMA. Tanya bids goodbye to him one day. The rest of the movie is about whether Liger becomes MMA champion and wins back his love.

Liger rehashes the most hackneyed themes of Indian cinema – in story, sequences, characters and even in the politics. But what is sought to make Liger special is the pan-India tag

If you think this sounds familiar then you probably don’t watch movies. Though Liger starts from Royapuram in Chennai and such neighbourhoods in other languages, Mumbai is his initial destination and America, the eventual.

Liger proves that technical finesse and sophistication are no guarantee of audience interest. The story has to be there.

Liger rehashes the most hackneyed themes of Indian cinema – in story, sequences, characters and even in the politics. But what is sought to make Liger special is the pan-India tag.

What is truly pan-India is what filmmakers describe as sentiment. There’s a human story that everyone can relate to in a successful film. In KGF 2, for instance, it was mother’s love. Liger lacks that empathy kindling element. Liger is a telling example of what a pan-India movie should not be.


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